Myrrh--An Ancient Painkiller

Reference: Dolara P, Luceri C, Ghelardini C, et al. Analgesic effects of myrrh. Nature 1996; 379:29.

Summary: To investigate the effects of myrrh on pain, mice were given a 10% suspension of ground whole myrrh intragastrically in the study presented in this paper. The mice were then placed on a hot plate and the time to onset of paw licking, a sign of pain sensation, was measured. Mice given the myrrh didn't start licking their paws until significantly more time had passed compared to mice given only saline. The active analgesic compounds in myrrh were identified as three sesquiterpenes, particularly furanoeudesma-1,3-diene (FD). Each sesquiterpene was injected into the cerebral ventricles of mice and the hot plate test repeated. Two of the sesquiterpenes (curzarene and FD) significantly lengthened the time to onset of paw licking compared to baseline values. FD was then administered orally at a dose of 50 mg/kg to mice who had acetic acid injected intraperitoneally. The mice treated with FD had significantly fewer abdominal writhes compared to mice given corn oil. FD was as effective as morphine in this regard. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, completely inhibited the analgesic effect of FD. Finally, FD was shown to bind to opioid receptors in the brain.

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